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gravate your sins, and preachers had need to lift up their voices and be louder trumpets to tell you of your sins, than to other men. But if ye will wash you, and make you clean, and put away the evil of your doings, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, &c. ; you may then come with boldness and confidence unto God. Otherwise to what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices? your oblations will be vain, and your incense abominable. If ye be willing and obedient, you shall be blessed; but if ye refuse and rebel ye shall be destroyed, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. If you do well shall you not be accepted ? but if ye do evil, sin lieth at the door. Let your profession be never so great, and your parts and expressions never so seraphical, sin is a reproach to any people: and if you would hide yourselves from justice in the purest church, among the holiest people, and the most numerous and longest prayers, be sure that your sin will find you out. Your secret lust, your covetous overreaching, your secret gluttony or tippling, much more your crimson sins will surely find you out.
Alas! what then will those miscreants do, whose sins are scarlet, bloody persecutions, under pretence of promoting unity, and obedience, and the Catholic church, while the cloak or cover of it is but the thin, transparent spiderweb of human traditions, and numerous ceremonies, and childish complimenting with God; and when they have nothing but the prayers of a long liturgy, to cover the effects of their earthly, sensual, and diabolical zeal and wisdom (as St. James calls it b), and to concoct the widows houses which they devour, and to put a reverence upon the office and work, which they labour all the week to render reproachful, by a sensual, luxurious, idle life, and by perfidious making merchandize of souls.
As ever you care what becometh of your souls, take heed lest sin grow bold under prayers, and grow familiar and contemptuous of sermons and holy speeches, and lest you keep a custom of religious exercises and wilful sins. For oh, how doth this harden now, and wound hereafter! He is the best hearer, that is the holiest liver, and most faithful obeyer.
James iii. 15, 16.
Direct. xiv. · Be not a bare hearer of the prayers of the pastor, whether it be by a liturgy or without. For that is but hypocrisy, and a sin of omission : you come not thither only to hear prayers, but to pray: and kneeling is not praying; but it is a profession that you pray. And will you be prayerless even in the house of prayer, and when you profess and seem to pray, and so add hypocrisy to impiety? I fear many that seem religious and would have those kept from the sacrament that pray not in their families, do very ordinarily tolerate themselves in this gross omission, and mocking of God, and are prayerless themselves even when they seem to pray.
Direct. xv. - Stir up your hearts in an especial manner to the greatest alacrity and joy: in speaking and singing the praises of God.? The Lord's day is a day of joy and thanksgiving, and the praises of God are the highest and holiest employment upon earth. And if ever you should do any thing with all your might, and with a joyful and triumphing frame of soul, it is this. Be glad that you may join with the sacred assemblies, in heart and voice, in so heavenly a work. And do not as some humoursome, peevish persons (that know not the danger of that proud disease) fall to quarrelling with David's psalms, as unsuitable to some of the hearers, or to nauseate every failing in the metre, so as to turn so holy a duty into neglect or scorn (for alas ! such there are near me where I dwell); nor let prejudice against melody, or church-music (if you dwell where it is used) possess you with a splenetic disgust of that which should be your most joyful work. And if you know how much the incorporate soul must make use of the body in harmony, and in the joyful praises of Jehovah, do not then quarrel with lawful helps, because they are sensible and corporeal.
Direct. xvi. · Be very considerate and serious in sacramental renewings of your covenant with God.' O think what great things you come thither to receive! And think what a holy work you have to do! And think what a life it is that you must promise! So solemn a covenanting with God, and of so great importance, requireth a most holy, reverent, and serious frame of soul. But yet let not the un
+ See Mr. Rawlet's book of Sacramental Covenanting.
warrantable differencing this ordinance from God's praises and the rest, seduce you into the common errors of the times : I mean, 1. Of those that hence are brought to think that the sacrament should never be received without a preparatory day of humiliation, above the preparation for an ordinary Lord's day's work. 2. And therefore receive it seldom; whereas the primitive churches never spent a Lord's day together without it. 3. Those that turn it into a perplexing terrifying thing, for fear of being unprepared, when it should be their greatest comfort, and when they are not so perplexed about their unpreparedness to any other duty. 4. Those that make so great a difference betwixt this and church-prayers, praises, and other church-worship, as that they take this sacrament only for the proper work and privilege of church-members; and thereupon turn it into an occasion of our great contentions and divisions, while they fly from sacramental communion with others, more than from communion in the other church-worship. O what hath our subtle enemy done against the love, peace, and unity of Christians, especially in England, under pretence of sacramental purity!
Direct. xvII. · Perform all your worship to God, as in heart-communion with all Christ's churches upon earth; even those that are faulty, though not with their faults.' Though you can be present but with one, yet consent as present in spirit with all, and separate not in heart, from any one, any further than they separate from Christ.
Direct. XVIII. • Accordingly let the interest of the church of Christ be very much upon your heart, and pray as hard for it as for yourself.
Direct. xix. 'Yea, remember in all, what relation you have to the heavenly society and choir, and think how they worship God in heaven, that you may strive to imitate them in your degree.' Of which more anon.
Direct. xx. ' Let your whole course of life after, savour of a church-frame ; live as the servants of that God whom you worship, and as ever before him.' Live in the love of those Christians with whom you have communion, and do not quarrel with them at home; nor despise, nor persecute them with whom you join in the worshipping of God. And do not needlessly open the weaknesses of the minister to prejudice others against him and the worship. And be not religious at the church alone, for then you are not truly religious at all.
CHAPTER X. Directions about our Communion with Holy Souls Departed,
. and now with Christ. The oversight and neglect of our duty concerning the souls of the blessed, now with Christ, doth much harden the Papists in their erroneous excesses here about a. And if we will ever reduce them, or rightly confute them, it must be by a judicious asserting of the truth, and observing so much with them as is our duty, and commending that in them which is to be commended, and not by running away from truth and duty that we may get far enough from them and error; for error is an ill way of confuting error. The practical truth lieth in these following precepts..
Direct. 1. - Remember that the departed souls in heaven are part, and the noblest part of the body of Christ and family of God, of which you are inferior members; and therefore that you owe them greater love and honour, than you owe to any saints on earth.' “ The whole family in heaven and earth is named of Christ b.” Those are the happiest and noblest parts, that are most pure and perfect, and dwell in the highest and most glorious habitations, nearest unto Christ, yea, with him. If holiness be lovely, the most holy are the most lovely: we have many obligations therefore, to love them more than the saints on earth : they are more excellent and amiable, and Christ loveth them more. And if any be honourable, it must especially be those spirits that are of greatest excellencies and perfections, and advanced to the greatest glory and nearness to their Lord. Make conscience therefore of this as your duty, not only to love and honour blessed souls, but to love and honour them more than those that are yet on earth. And as every duty is attended with benefit, so we shall find this exceeding
a I have said more of this since in my“ Life of Faith.” . b Ephes. ii. 15.
great benefit in the performance of this duty, that it will incline our hearts to be the more heavenly, and draw up our desires to the society which we so much love and honour.
Direct. 11. “Remember that it is a part of the life of faith, to see by it the heavenly society of the blessed, and a part of your heavenly conversation, to have frequent, serious, and delightful thoughts of those crowned souls that are with Christ.
Otherwise God would never have given us such descriptions of the heavenly Jerusalem, and told us so much of the hosts of God that must inhabit it for ever; that must come from the “ east and from the west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God.” When it is said that our conversation (modítevua) is in heaven, the meaning extendeth both to our relation, privileges, and converse : we are denizens or citizens of the heavenly society; and our title to their happiness is our highest privilege and honour; and therefore our daily business is there, and our sweetest and most serious converse is with Christ and all those blessed spirits. Whatever we are doing here, our eye and heart should still be there : for we “ look not at the temporal things which are seen, but at the eternal things which are not seeno.” A wise Christian that hath forsaken the kingdom of darkness, will be desirous to know what the kingdom of Christ is into which he is translated, and who are his fellow subjects, and what are their several ranks and dignities, so far as tendeth to his congruous converse with them all. And how should it affect us to find that “we are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant d ?" Live then as the members of this society, and exclude not the chief members from your thoughts and converse ; though our local, visible communion be only with these rural, inferior inhabitants, and not with the courtiers of the king of heaven, yet our mental communion may be much with them. If
c 2 Cor. iv. 18.
d Heb. xii. 22–24.